Governor Abbott closed bars, restaurants, and other establishments via a state-wide court order towards the end of March, but it looks like they are set to reopen soon enough. Not altogether surprising, with the lockdown followed reduced numbers of DWI arrests. With the bars closed, no one could go out and have a drink with friends or family. But when they reopen, expect the police to be ready and watchful.
That means you need to be on your guard, too. Here's what you should know before you free yourself from your home and head to the closest bar upon its reopening in the Dallas / Fort Worth metro area or elsewhere in Texas.
When Lockdown Eases, Will DWIs Spike in Texas?
People are getting tired of being in their homes. They want out. They want to live and do the things they could when things were "normal." Fortunately, the stay-at-home orders will soon expire (in Dallas, however, the stay-at-home order was just extended to May 15), and Governor Abbott promises "massive amounts of businesses" to reopen. These businesses will likely include most bars and restaurants. So, what does this mean for you if you go out and have a drink or two to celebrate freedom again?
It means: the police may we waiting just outside. Police in Plano, Texas, and really throughout most of Texas, are known to surveil bars and follow patrons when they leave, waiting for them to make a minor traffic violation to pull them over. But sometimes, they don't even wait for that minor traffic violation because they'll use the knowledge of you departing a bar to speculate you've been drinking and are now driving under the influence.
This is all speculation, of course. DWIs may not rise sharply. But given people's wish to get out and get back to their lives and the police's expectation that people will head to the bars to release pent-up energy, the combination suggests a possible increase.
What You Should Keep in Mind When Bars & Restaurants Reopen in Texas
You have rights, though, and you should know them. First, when bars open up again, you most definitely can go out and have a drink. Second, an officer cannot stalk the bars and then arrest anyone just because he or she left the bar and got into a vehicle to drive home. Third, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic violation before pulling you over. Fourth, the officer must have probable cause before arresting you. These are all part of your constitutional rights.
But there's more. If you are pulled over after hitting a bar once the stay-at-home order expires, you have:
- the right not to incriminate yourself, meaning you do not have to answer the officer's question – but you do have to provide the officer with your name, auto insurance, and driver's license; and
- the right to an attorney, meaning if you are arrested, continue not to say anything to the police about the arrest – wait until you have hired an experienced Texas DWI attorney.
As you know, a DWI conviction can cause serious consequences. Even a first-offense has serious repercussions regardless of whether or not you spend a day in jail. A first-time DWI conviction means your driving privileges will be taken away or limited. It also means you have a criminal record, and with that comes all the problems associated with getting a job, getting housing, among other things. And, finally, you have a first-offense DWI, which acts as a prior DWI conviction. So, if you are ever arrested and convicted again of a DWI in Texas, the penalties increase due to the prior DWI.
So, if you intend to meet up with a friend for a drink as soon as the stay-at-home order expires and the neighborhood bar opens back up, do so. It's your right. But do so knowing that eases may be on you as soon as you exit the door.